Gareth Southgate is being praised for doing what the Government has struggled to do amidst ongoing Brexit tensions - bring a divided England together.
Ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Belgium, the England football manager gave an interview to ITV where he championed the sport’s potential to influence the nation while drawing parallels between his players’ racial diversity and the make-up of “modern England”.
Back-to-back wins against Tunisia and Panama have seen jubilant England fans spilling into the streets to hold impromptu parties in recent days.
Supporters were now “connecting” with the team in a way they had not done since Euro 96, the ITV interviewer told Southgate.
“That is one of the most important things for me, if we’re managing to do that,” Southgate replied. He added:
We have a chance to affect something bigger than ourselves. We’re a team with our diversity and youth that represents modern England and in England we’ve spent a bit of time being lost as to what our modern identity is and I think as a team we represent that modern identity and hopefully people can connect with us.”
Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, labelled Southgate’s remarks “really interesting and impressive” in an interview that, if Twitter is anything to by, won him a legion of new fans.
Rob Francis wrote on Twitter: “Englishness is a confused, jagged object at the best of time. I’ll be honest, I never expected that the manager of the national team would begin to articulate a vision of England that I could warm to like this. My admiration for Southgate grows.
When asked if the World Cup was then, more than just a football tournament, Southgate said: “Of course first and foremost I’ll be judged on the football results, but you have a chance to affect other things that are even bigger.”
Reaction to the interview has been overwhelmingly positive with Southgate being hailed a “hero”.
Another Twitter commenter wrote: “Someone needs to explain to me how we’ve got to the point where the England football manager is brighter and more eloquent than the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition combined.”
Sheridan Robins added: “I have to say - and I’m sure I’m not alone - I have been won over by Southgate. Not only with what he is doing for the team on the pitch, but off it too.”
Ali Lanning went further with her praise, writing “this talk is how heroes are born”.